Rays add power with Pena, Scott
The Rays set out this offseason to improve their offense without diminishing their defense.
They appeared to accomplish that by agreeing to terms with first baseman Carlos Pena a week after signing DH Luke Scott.
The duo replaces two incumbents, first baseman Casey Kotchman and DH Johnny Damon, who teamed for only 26 homers and 121 RBI last season.
Despite making the playoffs last season, the Rays ranked eighth in the American League -- and last in the AL East -- in runs scored.
And after being eliminated by the Rangers in the first round of the playoffs for the second consecutive season, they felt they had to add power and were willing to spend to do so, signing Scott for $5 million (with a $6 million option for 2013) and bringing back Pena, who starred for them 2007-10, for $7.25 million.
Pena averaged 34 homers and 97 RBIs over the last five seasons, moving to the Cubs in 2010. Scott averaged 25 homers over the 2008-10 season, then was limited last year by a torn labrum in his right shoulder that required surgery.
With Pena and Scott aboard, the Rays could have six hitters capable of 20-plus homers, joining Matt Joyce, Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton and Ben Zobrist. Desmond Jennings, who hit 10 in 63 games last season, could be a seventh.
Pena, also known for his tremendous defense and clubhouse leadership, was clearly pumped to return, texting the Tampa Bay Times: "Soooo excited ... !!!!!!"
Upton, Price avoid arbitration hearings with Rays
--CF B.J. Upton, LHP David Price, RHP Burke Badenhop and LHP J.P. Howell agreed to one-year deals that avoided arbitration hearings. Upton, who got $7 million, and Price, who more than tripled his salary to $4.35 million, said they were pleased to have their contracts resolved without getting further into the process. Howell got $1.35-million and Badenhop $1.075-million.
--RHP Jeff Niemann is headed to a February arbitration hearing over a difference of $450,000. The Rays offered $2,750,000 while Niemann, in his first year of arbitration eligibility, sought $3,200,000. The Rays have a policy to cut off negotiations and proceed to a hearing once figures are exchanged. The Rays are 4-0 in hearings in six years under executive vice president Andrew Friedman.
--INF Will Rhymes, cut loose unexpectedly by the Tigers, thought the Rays would be a good fit and signed a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training and a chance to compete for a bench job.
"Their style of play really appealed to me -- the way they run their organization, how they do things," Rhymes said. "It seemed like a good fit to me."
--RHP Romulo Sanchez, a 27-year-old righty who has brief big-league time with the Pirates (2007-08) and Yankees (2010) and spent last season in Japan, will provide depth for the Rays' bullpen. Sanchez was signed to a minor-league deal with an invite to spring training. Also signed were OF Jesus Feliciano, a 32-year-old who has played 54 big-league games for the 2010 Mets, and RHP Matt Torra, who spent the second half of last season with the Rays Triple-A Durham.
--C Nevin Ashley cleared waivers and was sent outright to Triple-A Durham. Ashley, taken off the 40-man roster last week to make room for Luke Scott, could still be invited to major-league camp.
BY THE NUMBERS: $63,000,000 -- Rays approximate payroll for 2012, a significant increase from last season's $41 million.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I might ask (Yankees star Derek) Jeter if I can buy a wing in his house for a little while." -- LHP David Price, joking that he might invest some of his new salary with Tampa's most well-known ballplayer.